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Looking for Qualified Talent? Consider Industrial Distribution Programs

Schools are one option for distributors looking for candidates with industry interest and experience.

In a recent MDM survey on hiring, many distributors noted that it’s hard to find qualified candidates with the right experience. Distributors are frustrated with the lack of recognition distribution gets among job-seekers from outside the industry, and they are prioritizing job-specific skills and industry knowledge in their search for new hires.

I spent a day this week with students at the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s Industrial Distribution program. The program is committed to getting the students involved in the industry early on and getting them exactly the kind of experience that distributors are frustrated that there’s not enough of.

While an internship with a distribution or manufacturing company is required for upperclassmen as part of the program’s curriculum, many of the students also spend summers with distributors earlier on in their college careers. I spoke with freshmen who were looking forward to working for distributors this coming summer. In addition to the work experience these students get, many are talking with distributors practically from day one, participating in career days, attending industry association events and interacting with program contributors.

The effort has largely succeeded, as nearly all of this year’s graduating seniors have accepted jobs already. Many of the newest students are encouraged to stay in the program because of its high job placement rate and its practical focus on one industry. Faculty members have worked in distribution, which increases the applicability of the program to the real world.

The University of Nebraska at Kearney’s industrial distribution program is just one of many in the U.S. focused on preparing the next generation for careers in industrial distribution.

There are other places to look on college campuses for talent, as well. Mark Kramer of Laird Plastics recently extolled the virtues of looking to sales certificate programs at universities as a source of fresh sales talent. “The graduates of these programs arrive to the business world fully schooled in the mechanics of the selling process, sales call interaction and how to create value propositions and handle objections, to name just a few skill areas,” he said at the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors’ annual meeting this year.

What’s your next move? Most ID programs are looking for distributors and manufacturers to get involved in some way, and many have career fairs. If you’re having a hard time finding qualified talent, colleges focused on developing practical, applicable skills may be a good place to supplement your search.

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